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Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Should Not Reject First But Decide After Seriously Studying Why Non-Muslims In Malaysia Wants A Review Of Laws That Deprives The Legal Rights Of Non-Muslims Such As Article 121(1A) of The Federal Constitution


Media Statement
by Lim Guan Eng


(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): DAP declares full support for the memorandum signed by the 9 non-Muslim Ministers seeking a review of laws that deprives the legal rights of non-Muslims such as Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution. DAP regrets that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has chosen to reject the request by the 9 non-Muslim Ministers first without seriously studying why non-Muslims in Malaysia wants a review of laws.

Even though DAP had taken the lead in mobilizing opposition to Article 121(1A) and DAP lawyers involved in defending the rights of widow of K. Moorthy who insisted that her husband was a Hindu, DAP is willing to let the 9 non-Muslim Ministers to take over and press the government to implement the necessary changes in the law. DAP wants the Prime Minister to know that the 9 non-Muslim Ministers(excluding Tourism Minister Datuk Leo Michael Toyad who was overseas) represents the aspirations of the entire non-Muslim community in Malaysia.

 

DAP asserts that the non-Muslims are not pressing for more rights but only for a restoration of their rights as outlined in the 1957 Merdeka
Constitution that gave birth to the nation. Non-Muslims in Malaysia had never questioned the rights of the syariah courts to have sole jurisdiction and powers over matters relating to Muslim and Islam. What non-Muslims seek is the restoration of the position in the 1957 Merdeka Constitution that allows civil courts to decide on disputes involving religion where one party is a Muslim and the other a non-Muslim. .

 

Article 121(1A) which was amended in 1988 deprived non-Muslims of any legal remedies whatsoever in civil courts in disputes affecting Muslims on questions of religion as civil courts were not willing to hear such cases. The recent K. Moorthy case highlighted this injustice when the High Court observed that there was no legal remedies available to non-Muslims in such disputes as the civil court would not intervene and non-Muslims had no recourse to syariah courts as non-Muslims.

 

Whilst former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman had said that this was not the intention of the 1988 amendment to the Federal Constitution that gave rise to Article 121(1A), he admitted that the abdication of powers by the civil courts had given rise to such a situation. That is why to prevent civil courts from surrendering their powers of jurisdiction there is a need to amend Article 121(1A) to clarify the situation.

 

To put it simply, if the subject matter is Muslim and not in dispute then it is a matter for the syariah courts. If whether the subject matter is Muslim or not is disputed, then the civil courts should decide to ensure that the non-Muslim has a right to representation.

 

In other words the status and jurisdiction of the syariah courts on matters involving Islam and Muslim remain unchanged. The civil courts will step in when one of the parties to the dispute is non-Muslim. DAP can not understand the contention made by some irresponsible parties that this will reduce the status of syariah courts. Clearly these irresponsible parties are out to provoke religious sentiments and deprive the rights of non-Muslim as citizens in Malaysia with equal rights.

 

DAP regrets the remarks made by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and UMNO Ministers that the memorandum by the 9 non-Muslim Ministers as a challenge to the Prime Ministerís authority and abuse of his liberal attitude  as totally unfounded and baseless. If UMNO dares not challenge the Prime Ministerís authority would any non-Muslim Minister dares to do so. To even consider any non-Muslim Minister as daring the challenge the Prime Ministerís authority is ridiculous as the non-Muslims Ministers have shown that they can not even voice out the aspirations of the non-Muslim community.

It is clear the way the English and Malay papers are playing up the issue that UMNO is trying to force the non-Muslim Ministers to back down. Should such threats issued by UMNO Ministers and UMNO Youth succeed, then there is no democracy in Malaysia if one can not even voice out legitimate concerns about religious freedoms and fundamental rights to justice and equal treatment before the law.                

(21/01/2006)      


* Lim Guan Eng,  DAP Secretary General

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